So yesterday morning I came back to Miami after five weeks of training in Houston and I have to say that it was both the most challenging five weeks of my life and the most rewarding. Even if I failed to run my classroom perfectly each and every day, it was great to be reminded that kids are kids and they need people to listen and respect them.
To not make this the longest post of life, I’m just going to list and explain five rules that I’ve thought about for teaching middle schoolers. I could definitely add to the list, but these are things that I’m going to be thinking hard about as I prepare to interview for a full-time teaching position in Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
1. Students need to know the what, how, and why of EVERYTHING that you want them to do.
Basically, only telling kids what they need to do is a recipe for misbehavior and confusion. Kids have to know what it is they’re working on, how they’re supposed to work on it, and why it is important for the long term. In order to really get at the WHY of it and engage students in the what you really have to know your kids. Which leads to rule number 2:
2. Get to know your students.
Period. This should probably be rule number 1. I couldn’t stress this part enough. Know what makes your students excited, what gets them to pay attention, what gets them upset, what makes them shut down. All of it can help you form positive relationships between student and teacher and then positive relationships between student and subject. If students look forward to coming to your class that’s a positive. If it’s because they actually enjoy doing the classwork, that’s even better.
3. Connect every single dot when you’re explaining something to your students. #ModelOften
This is something that I struggled with on multiple levels throughout the summer. This means that before you leave your kids on their own to do anything, you should have shown them exactly how they’re supposed to do it and then done it with them. If you have worksheets always have an example of how to properly answer a question on the worksheet. If you’re lecturing make sure you show exactly how the process you’re talking about works. Also, try not to just lecture, but give kids something to do while you’re talking so that they’re engaged with what you’re saying.
4. Idle hands lead to idle minds
Most middle schoolers that other corps members and I worked with either liked to talk a lot or move around a lot. If they don’t have an assigned task that will let them positively and purposefully move about or engage in conversation then they’ll get off-task or act up in ways that can derail the classroom.
I personally disagree with the always active model of education where kids have to be “on-task” working 100% of the time, but it’s important that you create a culture where kids know that work needs to get done and will proactively do it. This takes time!
5. Teaching well takes time and patience
All of these rules take time to implement and properly execute. You won’t really know your students after the first week but you still have to start working on achieving the standards for your subject. Even if they understand why, your students might not enthusiastically engage in the whats and hows until they believe in you as a teacher, mentor, role model, and person. I’m the farthest thing from a master teacher, but I can definitely say that I’m looking forward to the challenge of building strong relationships with my students and using that as the foundation for pushing students to success. It probably won’t happen for most of my kids until the third grading period, but I’m invested for the long term.
I’m looking forward to a challenging school year and for the most important 120 people in my life to grow in a positive way. I’ll let y’all know how it goes